Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum, just one reason to spend time in Pais Vasco
Wi-fi (spanish pronunciation: wee-fee) is something most of us Americans have and take for granted. I have recently read that this is likely even more the case in places like Scandinavia, South Korea, Estonia, and, well, many other countries that simply have better, faster, more abundant internet access than we do in the States (I will stop while I'm ahead and not go into my strong disdain for a particular company based in a mid-Atlantic state where I was born that is simply one of my least favorite corporate entities in the post-modern history of corporations....) Anyway, can you tell that I am, yet again, a bit frustrated by the internet gods' refusal to curry favor upon me?
I do apologize for the slow delivery of new posts during my travels. It has been not only a function of slooooow internet, but also a backlog of regular work (email correspondence, March Spain newsletter feature development, inventory management, etc.) and lots of time on the road.
Spain's a pretty big country. Especially when you decide to commit to Galicia. Unless you're flying in and flying out (I flew in to Vigo, but drove out of another town further inland in Galicia) plan on at least 5 hours driving to get you somewhere slightly more central (Leon, for example) though in my case I drove from Ribeira Sacra (around Monforte de Lemos) up to Bilbao and it took every bit of nine hours. Yes, I was driving slowly, and took a few detours because, well, the Picos de Europa mountains and the Asturian countryside are just so beautiful. Still, you get the point. Galicia is on the way to nowhere, though completely worth the visit. Just allot the proper amount of time.
Consider that my first Spain travel tip. Here are some others, in no particular order:
1.) GPS - you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. I always bring a Garmin Muvi (I forget the model number) and when it works, it functions as either great re-inforcement or a real life saver in some cases. Sometimes, though, it will not pick up a satellite signal, or not be quick enough in city situations.
2.) Geography as orientation - know your cities, know your villages. Bring a map. So many times, a smaller village may appear on a sign (autopista, national highway, local road roundabout, etc). If you know this is the direction where you need to head, then you'll be less stressed and spare yourself some time.
3.) Cell phone - As a once to twice a year traveller and Verizon iPhone user (a no go in Europe) I invested in a very cheap Spanish phone on a prepay contract. I can re-up for as little as 5 euros. For making last minute adjustments to appointments, or in my case advising of lateness (given how winery visits tend to go for me here, I'm always running late) a phone is essential. If you have your own US phone, it'll obviously cost more but will come in handy.
4.) Hydrate - even more than usual. If you're reading this, you'll likely be wine tasting. Not to mention all the jamon, chorizo, salchichon, lomo and other salty cured meats. Which leads to...
5.) Digestion - Is this too much information? Probably. Nevertheless, I am so much happier when I remember to buy pears, celery, take a night off of the iberico ham and steak or lamb combo and go for a falafel or something. Non Spanish food options, particularly on a trip longer than a week, are a life saver for me. I love Spanish food, but remember one thing...Spaniards do not necessarily eat ham and as much protein every night at home as we travelers do eating out. They actually may eat things like a mixed green salad at home - no tuna, no hard boiled egg, just lettuce! (for those of you familiar with the sad state of the Spanish salad, this is hard to believe, I know)
6.) Interact with people - this is tough for me since I'm an introvert. However, especially if you're traveling alone...make an effort to be social. I asked a bartender (also the propietor...love that bartenders are also chefs and propietors here in Spain) in Bilbao what he was doing, it looked like some crazy modern technique involving some sort of liquid, seeds, and an egg yolk. Turns out, as his friend explained to me, that he was playing a trick on out of towners (Spaniards, in this case) by using some Chinese tea that Chinese friends of one of his customers brought, and putting an egg yolk in there and microwaving it. A bit brutal, I know, but hey, it lead to my hanging out with him and his friends, one of whom lived in Florida for 3 years and dated a girl from Madison, Wisconsin (he's now a die-hard Packers fan). This brings me to my final tip, for now:
7.) Visit Pais Vasco - some of my best Spanish memories continue to come from Euskadi. In the past 3 years alone, I have driven to Guipuzkoa province and drunk young apple cider and learned drinking songs, while eating amazing charcoal grilled ribeye steaks and bacalao omelets (twice, it was worth repeating). I have been invited to an Athletic Bilbao soccer game. This trip, I went to a racket club with one of our Basque wine brokers, and watched people wrap up their sets and then dive into pintxos so beautiful you'd swear you were in a high end pintxos bar in San Sebastian, not a racket club outside of Bilbao. I have gone to a seaside village to check out a 40,000 bottle old Rioja wine cellar (OK, maybe this is more of an in the trade thing). You get the picture though. Basque country is just one example of where the good life is in Spain.
Thanks for reading this somewhat rambling post. Back to wine stuff next time.